Witchcraft is an incredibly broad term and incorporates many activities and organizations.
It varies from culture to culture and is consequently somewhat confusing when you try to define it.
Is witchcraft religion? There is no doubt that at the core of witchcraft is a religious belief system. The structure of this system is a reflection of the culture from which the adherents originate.
Table of Contents
AN OVERVIEW OF WITCHCRAFT
In western cultures, by default, a witch is regarded as a benign character who uses witchery to cause harm to people.
This was a result of the church’s opposition to Witchcraft and anti-witch propaganda they circulated.
In more recent times in the West, witchcraft has split into THREE distinct varieties, which I will look at individually later in the article.
These divisions are Wiccans, Traditional Witches, and Satanists.
In North America, the mainstream culture of witchcraft was brought from Europe and overlaid on a Native American tradition of witchcraft.
There was also a lively belief in Witchcraft brought by Slaves from Africa.
Introduction of Wicca
Perhaps the best-known religion connected with witchcraft is WICCA, a modern Pagan religion.
Wicca was developed in England in the early 20th century.
Wicca was brought to the British public by a retired civil servant, Gerald Gardner, who brought together a variety of ancient Pagan and modern rituals and theology and formed a structure for this new religion. (see BBC page on Wicca)
The core Wiccan belief has no central authority and consensus is derived from the books of Gardener and Doreen Valiente.
Over time the original Wicca has divided into a number of diverse denominations or traditions.
British Wicca which remained true to the original writings of Gardner and rejects the more diverse traditions that have arisen.
Wicca worships both a God and a Goddess. Wicca typically incorporates Magic, although not all Wiccans are on board with this.
Most Wiccans see Witchcraft as a framework that allows witchcraft to be brought into modern society.
Traditional Witchcraft is a collection of forms of witchcraft that reject Gerald Gardner’s Wicca.
Some of these forms look very similar to Wicca but others are more connected to Luciferianism and revere Lucifer.
This is not the same as Satanism, which sees Lucifer as the fallen Angel, the Devil.
But instead sees Lucifer in the tradition that sees Lucifer as the Morning Star
Satanism is a religion based on Satan.
It was first connected with witchcraft in fifteenth-century Europe.
The persecution of Satanists reached its peak in the fifteenth to eighteenth-century Europe with the accusations against heretics, which it labeled witches.
The Christians created a belief in the conspiracy of Satanic witches.
Trials began in France and Italy before coming to the UK and thence onto the British colonies (including North America).
There is a view that many witches persecuted in the 1500-1800s were often folk healers who used herbs to heal the sick.
Some of these folk healers would use altered states of consciousness as part of the mystery of the healing process, in exactly the way Shamans might do.
There is a huge overlap between Witches and Shamans, especially in Eastern Europe (especially Hungary) where the descendants of Siberian Shamans had settled.
These Shamans were frequent victims of the witch trials that had spread across Europe to the east.
Shamans were a religious figure who was believed to achieve various powers through trance or religious processes.
Witchcraft And Religion In The USA
Let’s see what is the current status of witchcraft in the United States.
North American Witches
At first, there were the indigenous people of North America who had a variety of religious practices that were passed down through oral histories.
Part of the North American native culture was the medicine man, who typically was called upon to prevent or heal both physical and mental illness within a community.
Some medicine men (and women) undergo a transformational initiation and/or apprenticeship to gain their “Supernatural Powers.”
The medicine man will usually carry magical objects and herbal remedies in just the same way that a European Witch might do. In the 18th century, European observers used the term “Witch Doctor” to describe these healers/religious figures as a derogatory term.
For many years traditional Native American religions were outlawed by the authorities and later native children were forcibly removed from their mothers to be sent away for schooling in European ways and Christianity, in an effort to destroy the native culture and religions.
In many ways, the Medicine Man and Witch carried out the same quasi-religious service to the community and both were persecuted by the Catholic Church.
European Witches in the New World
When large scale population movements from the old world took place, it brought to North America a cross-section of the population of society from various European countries.
In particular, it brought those on the fringes of the community looking for a new start in North America.
This would certainly include some people regarded as witches.
Unfortunately, since North America was a British colony and was subject to British laws on Witchcraft, it was not the escape many had hoped for. (See UK Parliament Page on Witchcraft)
It was only after the revolution that freedom of religion became a fact for them. (See Caselaw Search Engine for Witchcraft in the USA)
In the early days of migration, there would be a shortage of qualified medical practitioners on the frontier, and “Travelling Doctors” who traveled from town to town selling their services were all that was available.
Some were undoubtedly chancers who were selling placebos in a search for profit, while others genuinely thought they were doing good with the herbal remedies they had brought from Europe.
Since there was a respect for Native American Medicine Men and medicines these healers often claimed to have been trained by native Americans.
Among these healers, there would have been some individuals who may have been thought of as a Witch in their home countries.
In the 18th Century, some Americans had a firm belief that many ailments stemmed from supernatural forces and could be combatted by magic and ritual. [Jennie R. Joe, “Health and Healers,” in Encyclopedia of North American Indians]
Fastest Growing Religion in the USA?
Today in the USA the fastest-growing major religion in the USA is Islam. Christianity is in decline.
But growing even faster than Islam is Witchcraft in the form of Wicca.
It is estimated that the number of Wiccans is doubling every 30 months.
At present, there are over 340,000 registered witches in the USA.
Wicca is classified as a religion so it is correct to say that not only is Witchcraft a religion, but it is also the fastest-growing religion in the USA.
According to the British newspaper, The Guardian there is also a massive growth in the UK as well.
Witchcraft and Religion Explored
Let’s explore Witchcraft relation to religions
Wiccans believe in the Goddess, respect nature, and accept the “Wiccan Rede” which is an ethical code that states “If it harms none, do what you will.”
They believe in meditation and participate in rituals that take place all year.
Particularly important times are:
- New Moon
- Full Moon
- Vernal Equinox
- Summer Solstice
- Halloween (they call it Samhain)
Wiccan rituals include calling for the aid of deities, practicing ceremonial magic, and sharing a ritual meal.
Members of the Wiccan Religion call themselves Witches.
Because of this Wiccans are constantly battling to deny any connection with Devil worship.
In the first generation of Wiccans there was a great deal of effort spent by Wiccans to make the connection between Wicca and pre-Christian paganism, but these days most Wiccans accept that Wicca started with the works of Gerald Gardener.
The fact of the matter is that Wicca is a new religion that may have aspects of various ancient beliefs.
It is not an ancient religion, but merely an invention of Gerald Gardner.
Wicca is accepted as an official religion by the U.S government, Wiccan holidays are accepted by individual states.
African Witchcraft in the USA
Just as Millennials have been joining Wicca in large numbers, a parallel movement has begun amongst black Millennials.
Large numbers of young Afro-American women are flocking towards African Witchcraft.
African American Witchcraft had its origins in West Africa.
Belief in the deities known as Orishas was transported to North America as part of the slave trade.
These beliefs were mixed up with Catholicism and by the early 19th Century the following faiths had emerged:
- Cuban Santeria
- Brazilian Candomblé
- Haitian Vodou (different from Voodoo)
Together with several other minor faiths.
Millennials are practicing these faiths and casting spells, and building home alters to ancestors, seeking advice on many aspects of modern life.
Both black and white millennial witches are following similar threads of witchcraft due to an increasing disillusionment with the Catholic Church.
Many Afro-American witches are not ready to practice their new faith openly and have joined online Covens, hiding their beliefs from parents.
There are several Social Media Groups catering for these disillusioned Christians who have turned to Witchcraft.
In many cases, the members of the new Black Witchcraft movement are responding to high levels of abuse and there is a lot of talk about empowerment. (See The Atlantic Magazine).
How To Learn Witchcraft
Witchcraft can be studied the same as anything else.
And you can study it also online, thanks to this online course!
It will guide you through Witchcraft step by step, even if you’re a beginner.
If you’re considering to learn Witchcraft, this is probably the easiest option!
It’s amazing how the situation in the world changed.
Not a long time ago, I wrote an article about How Witchcraft and Witches were illegal in the past, and now its the fastest-growing religion in the USA!
Let’s see what the future brings next…